Ditching the bad habits for good: How I lost, and kept off, the weight

Jun 09, 2019
Author, radio and TV presenter extraordinaire Susie Elelman will cover healthy living and weight management for Starts at 60. Source: Supplied

Are you like me and seem to be constantly fighting the battle of the bulge?

I can’t ever remember a time as a child when I wasn’t referred to as either being fat or plump. Our family doctor, who I know was only trying to be kind, referred to me as pleasantly plump.

I was reminded of this again only recently, when out of the blue I received a lovely letter from a retired school teacher, who taught one of my brothers and me at high school.

In it she states: “I have a clear recollection of you – rather plumpish at the time.”

My memory of growing up in the ritzy northern beaches of Sydney was as a scared little fat wog kid, who looked different with jet black hair and dark tanned olive skin. I was born to refugee parents, who had strong accents and a last name ending in ‘man’. Despite my Polish dad being a holocaust survivor, we were branded Nazis or Nazi sympathisers and racially vilified.

Even though we had very little money, food was always front and centre in our house. When the doorbell rang Mum would immediately think about what she had in the fridge and the pantry to feed her guests.

Anyone from a European family, like me, knows how much you are encouraged to eat and have extra helpings from the big bowls and platters that filled the centre of the table.

Dad was starving for much of his time spent in concentration camps during the Second World War and had a real thing about not wasting any food. When we were little, he wouldn’t let us leave the table until our plates were empty, regardless of whether we were hungry or not.

That’s where I first learned some bad eating behaviours like delayed gratification, which is where you save your favourite thing for last and eat up everything else you don’t like first. I’d couple that with another bad habit of eating quickly, so I’d be able to finish my plate before my stomach could tell my brain it was full.

Comfort eating started at a very early age for me too as I had a lot to contend with emotionally. I was sexually molested just before my seventh birthday and received my fair share of racial slurs and physical taunts throughout my early childhood from some of the local Aussie kids of Anglo Saxon background.

It was very hard to ignore the horrible chants and hurtful names and being bullied, beaten up and constantly told to go back to where I came from, despite having been born in Australia, contributed greatly to my food addiction.

Comfort eating has always been my way of coping emotionally. I would take solace in high-fat, high-sugar foods and found while it was tantalising my taste buds and keeping my mind off my woes, sometimes only momentarily, it was also expanding my exterior putting up a barrier for further protection and I started getting wider and wider, one fat layer at a time.

By the time I turned 14, I was a size 14.

My weight has fluctuated vastly throughout my life, with me reaching my biggest in the 1990s when I was in my thirties and finding myself as a whopping size 22.

Perhaps the true benefit of being bigger is the breast size? Me with US actor and comedian Mark Curry. Source: Supplied
1995 Logies with US actor/comedian Mark Curry. Mum taught me ‘while they’re looking at the good bits they’re not looking a the bad bits’. Source: Supplied

I’ve tried every fad diet that was ever invented and I think I even created a few of my own. Most of them had some level of success for a short time but as soon as I was no longer making myself miserable on a diet, I would quickly go back to my old habits and it didn’t take long before the weight would pile back on again. This yo-yo dieting was not only having an adverse effect on my body but also impacting severely on my mind.

It took me decades to realise that diets simply don’t work.

Permanent changes had to happen with my lifestyle, habits and mindset if I was ever going to achieve any long term success.

If I was to ever take control of my overeating, I had to start by valuing my body like it was a prized possession.

A good mate if mine thinks of her body as a temple but my mind immediately thinks of the temple of doom.

Because my dad had two service stations, the better analogy for me was to compare my body to a luxury car.

Ask yourself, what car best describes your size and shape at the moment?

At my heaviest I felt like an 18 wheeler driving down a six-lane highway.

What dream car would you like to be driving your mind around in?

Mine is a red convertible Mercedes sports car so I can take the top down in summer.

As I slowly started to shed the kilos, I found I better resembled a five-door Tarago with extra boot space.

Then a Datsun 180B before I finally managed to shed in excess of 50 kilos, yes I’ve lost more than Posh Spice weighs, to reach my dream car size and shape.

After shedding the weight, I felt confident strutting my stuff on the Logies red carpet in 2013. Source: Supplied
Logies 2013. ‘I never lacked confidence strutting my stuff on the red carpet but shedding my weight made me look and feel better about myself.’ Source: Supplied

In each of my upcoming articles for Starts at 60 I will equip you with different tools you can keep in your mind’s glove-box to help you make the changes needed to reach your dream car size and shape.

I’ll examine your food fuel and what mix is best to keep your motor running at peak performance and at the same time help prevent your upholstery from bulging out around your waist.

I’ll suggest some interesting ways to burn off your fuel intake so you look and feel good about yourself, both on the inside and the outside.

Occasionally I’ll look through my rearview mirror and share some of my own life experiences and battles and share some positive tips to mentally help you avoid the potholes in life that can easily set you back in your endeavours.

I hope you’ll let me know what areas interest you, too.

Before long you’ll be behind the wheel in the driver’s seat, feeling in-control and ready to take the handbrake off.

I’ll finish off with one of my favourite quotes. It’s from my dad and I hope it puts a smile on your face and helps puts you in the right mindset.

“The most dangerous part of a motor vehicle is how loose the nut is behind the wheel” – Bill Elelman.

Have you struggled with your weight throughout your life? How have your views about your body changed as you’ve grown older?

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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